Planning & PR

By Andrew Serednyj, 15 March 2010

In much of the recent comment on the integration of ad agency styled planning into PR, the focus has been on the outputs. Having a planner in a PR agency naturally means better creative ideas and better evaluation.

Where there has been little comment is on how? What do planners do in a PR agency? And how does it change the traditional working practices and thinking of the agency?

An uncharitable view might be that PR agencies carry on working the way they always have done, but the addition of some clever thinking, talking and arguing will allow them to sell more interesting work and will naturally mean better evaluation.

The thing is; this isn’t how things work.

Firstly you need to distinguish between having a planning culture and just having planners. If nothing changes apart from some people called planners wandering around the agency, guess what, nothing changes.

Secondly it means having everyone at the agency adopting a new mindset. There is a tendency in PR to go straight from brief to execution without pausing for thought. For a planner to do some useful work they have to create a pause for thought. Whether it’s through the introduction of formal creative briefs or some other device, planning has to disrupt the traditional way of operating to give itself a chance of working.

Thirdly it should mean that the expectations of what planning helps to deliver in PR agencies, is properly presented. The sole aim of a planner is to produce more effective communications that address client problems and consumer needs. That’s it. If it’s a coupon promotion in The Daily Star that works, or a live webcast with your brand and Lady Gaga atop Big Ben that works, I don’t care as long as it works.

Having a clear picture of what ‘works’ allows you the chance to evaluate results properly. Evaluation is not about finding some kind of silver bullet of analytical veracity. The primary element that planning can add is by setting out objectives for activity that are clear, unique and therefore more likely to be measurable.

Planning has to make a difference to the PR agency before it can make a difference to the product of that agency.

Of course the easiest way of doing this for a planner is to start your own PR agency.

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